Over the last few trips I've decided that my ideal holiday reading selection includes; something a bit pulpy, preferably involving zombies; something a bit literary, that I can really concentrate on; something a bit filthy, because that's where your mind tends to wander in the sunshine (Just me? Oh...); and something a bit feminist, I think to try and counter the inevitable bikini/body/get-a-tan-or-not/where's-my-life-going thoughts that holidays inspire. (Just me again? Surely not...)
So, for the Ibiza trip my feminist book was Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy.
It's an interesting and thought provoking read. Levy's argument is that there is a distance between how women are viewed as sexy and actually being sexual, and that this disconnect is creating a situation where girls are growing up out of touch with their sexuality and real desires, because they are only presented with one 'acceptable' view of sexuality. Her argument is that, despite being able to have as much or as little sex with whoever we please, this very narrow definition of sexy is as limiting and objectifying as any of the gender stereotypes of the past.
She also wrote an article for The Independent that's a pretty good summary of the book.
Personally? I can agree with what she's saying and a lot of her points, especially about having to take on 'masculine' traits to be successful in certain industries and women who degenerate their own sex by claiming to be 'one of the boys' rather than being who they are; a woman with the skills to be successful in her chosen field regardless of her sex.
(There's some interesting stuff on masculine/feminine traits, the nature/nurture thing and the research that's been done into it in another book (Dubrovnik 2010's holiday feminism) Natasha Walter's Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism.)
But... as I often find with this sort of book, I can't believe it's as all-pervasive as she suggests. Levy's based in the US and her arguments are obviously built around her experiences there. The book is also five years old, so maybe we have regained some ground in recent years? All I know is that, whilst some aspects of what she says rang very true for me, a lot of them didn't. Maybe I've just been fortunate enough to know a lot of women (and men!) who are happy to question the version of sex and beauty sold to us in adverts and magazines, and to draw their own conclusions.
There's still a lots of, and far too much, inequality out there. But I'm optimistic.
The word 'feminist' is a tricky one, I know. But Sarah Bunting has written the most powerful explanation of why I think it's important to use it, and why I wouldn't hesitate to apply it to myself and pretty much everyone I know.
feminism n (1895) the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — n or adj — adj
Above, the dictionary definition of feminism — the entire dictionary definition of feminism. It is quite straightforward and concise. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism does not mention a membership fee or a graduated tax or "…unless you got your phone turned off by mistake." Rockefellers, the homeless, bad credit, no credit, no problem. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism does not require a diploma or other proof of graduation. It is not reserved for those who teach women's studies classes, or to those who majored in women's studies, or to those who graduated from college, or to those who graduated from high school, or to those who graduated from Brownie to Girl Scout. It doesn't care if you went to Princeton or the school of hard knocks. You can have a PhD, or a GED, or a degree in mixology, or a library card, or all of the above, or none of the above. You don't have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas's use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don't have to get better than a C-plus on it. You can really believe math is hard, or you can teach math. You don't have to take a test to get in. You don't have to speak English. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism is not an insurance policy; it doesn't exclude anyone based on age. It doesn't have a "you must be this tall to ride the ride" sign on it anywhere. It doesn't specify how you get from place to place, so whether you use or a walker or a stroller or a skateboard or a carpool, if you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism does not tell you how to vote or what to think. You can vote Republican or Libertarian or Socialist or "I like that guy's hair." You can bag voting entirely. You can believe whatever you like about child-care subsidies, drafting women, fiscal accountability, Anita Hill, environmental law, property taxes, Ann Coulter, interventionist politics, soft money, gay marriage, tort reform, decriminalization of marijuana, gun control, affirmative action, and why that pothole at the end of the street still isn't fixed. You can exist wherever on the choice continuum you feel comfortable. You can feel ambivalent about Hillary Clinton. You can like the ERA in theory, but dread getting drafted in practice. The definition does not stipulate any of that. The definition does not stipulate anything at all, except itself. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
The definition of feminism does not judge your lifestyle. You like girls, you like boys, doesn't matter. You eat meat, you don't eat meat, you don't eat meat or dairy, you don't eat fast food, doesn't matter. You can get married, and you can change your name or keep the one your parents gave you, doesn't matter. You can have kids, you can stay home with them or not, you can hate kids, doesn't matter. You can stay a virgin or you can boink everyone in sight, doesn't matter. It's not in the definition. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.
Yes. You are. You are a feminist. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period. It's more complicated than that — of course it is. And yet…it's exactly that simple. It has nothing to do with your sexual preference or your sense of humor or your fashion sense or your charitable donations, or what pronouns you use in official correspondence, or whether you think Andrea Dworkin is full of crap, or how often you read Bust or Ms. — or, actually, whether you've got a vagina. In the end, it's not about that. It is about political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and it is about claiming that definition on its own terms, instead of qualifying it because you don't want anyone to think that you don't shave your pits. It is about saying that you are a feminist and just letting the statement sit there, instead of feeling a compulsion to modify it immediately with "but not, you know, that kind of feminist" because you don't want to come off all Angry Girl. It is about understanding that liking Oprah and Chanel doesn't make you a "bad" feminist — that only "liking" the wage gap makes you a "bad" feminist, because "bad" does not enter into the definition of feminism. It is about knowing that, if folks can't grab a dictionary and see for themselves that the entry for "feminism" doesn't say anything about hating men or chick flicks or any of that crap, it's their problem.
It is about knowing that a woman is the equal of a man in art, at work, and under the law, whether you say it out loud or not — but for God's sake start saying it out loud already. You are a feminist.
I am a feminist too. Look it up.
Original link here.
These issues seem to be in the news a lot at the moment, arising from the slut walk phenomenon, the discussions following Ken Clarke's rape comment (which Sally at Sow and Sew has covered a lot more eloquently than I could ever dream of), and then the concept of benevolent sexism being discussed on Radio Four last night.
I don't know the answers, but I know it's important to think about. And I'm off to do just that, probably whilst riding my (man's) bike to meet my boyfriend for supper, to which I'll wear a (girly) frock. Because I can.
(And because it's his birthday. Happy Birthday best-beloved!)