Five things Feminism has Done for Me - but...
Surprise, surprise, Mr. Harper's New Government is kicking the feet out from under the Status of Women Canada Agency, cutting the budget by $5million, despite a $13BILLION surplus, and "banned ALL domestic advocacy and lobbying of governments with any funding received from SWC". Progressive Bloggers has started a thing to support SWC by posting "Five things feminism has done for me", and even though I didn't get tagged, and I'm late to the party, I thought I'd say my piece.
So, besides the thing where legally I’m a person? I tried to limit it to five, but that was really hard, so then I just put it into five general categories.
Sexuality and Reproduction
I’m free to say yes to sex. (Note: I “borrowed” this phrase from the Happy Feminist, because it was so perfect.) Not only can I say yes, I can ask somebody else to say yes (or no) to me. I have the freedom to learn what gives me pleasure and the confidence to ask my partner for it or do it myself. And I’m legally entitled to say no to sex – to anybody, at any time.
I’ve made it to 29 without getting pregnant. If or when I decide to have a baby, it will be because my partner and I really want to and we believe we’re ready for it. And modern medicine has kicked pregnancy/childbirth out of the top spot on the list of killers of young women.
There are still plenty of people around who buy into that damned if you do, damned if you don’t double standard that applies only to women, where if I say no, I’m a frigid bitch, and if I say yes, I’m a slut. And there are plenty of people out there who belive that in certain situations, a woman’s “no” isn’t valid because she’s asking for it, or that she “owes” the man sex. Not to mention the parts of the world where if it’s your spouse, it’s not legally rape, or where if a man rapes a woman and she doesn’t keep it a secret, she’s the one who gets punished (often by death) for being an adulteress.
And many, if not most, women in the world don’t have a choice about when or if they’re going to have babies. They may be denied their right to say no to intercourse. They may not be aware of their birth control options. They may not be able to access contraception (and if that fails, which it sometimes does, abortion) due to lack of availability, inability to travel to where it’s available, inability to pay for it, or even healthcare providers refusing to provide it to them. On top of that, if they get pregnant, they may not be able to get adequate pre-natal care, or even emergency help for complications that, left unattended, can be fatal.
It’s my decision who I’ll be in a relationship with. Even if I were to get pregnant, nobody could make me marry, the father unless I wanted to. I can go into relationships expecting to be treated as an equal partner, and if I’m not, I can leave. If I do get married, it’s a legal contract between equals, not a transaction where ownership of me gets transferred from my father to my husband.
Many, if not most, women aren’t this lucky. Many men still believe their wives/girlfriends are their property to do with as they like, and many women believe it too. I’m sure domestic violence is down from the bad old “rule of thumb” days*, but it still happens, to the point that resources for women trying to escape abusive husbands don’t come anywhere near the need. If a woman is murdered, there’s a good chance it was her husband, boyfriend, or ex-.
* - I’m aware that the law making it legal for a man to beat his wife was not actually called the rule of thumb at the time, nor did it reference the thumb in relation to the size of stick he could beat her with.
Gender hasn’t limited me in my education. My teachers have always taken me seriously, even in traditionally male-dominated subjects like math and physics. I was able to attend university because my parents set up a RESP for me.
There are still plenty of people out there - some influential - who believe that women just aren’t as smart as men, or not as good as men in certain subjects. There are people who don’t think it’s worthwhile to pay for their daughters’ higher education because women don’t need it. When families can’t afford to send all their children to school (from primary to post-secondary) it’s usually the sons who will go. And of course there’s Afghanistan, where the Taliban has burned down girls’ schools and threatened to kill anybody who tries to re-open them.
I grew up believing I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. I get taken seriously at work. I don’t get sexually harassed. I get raises on the same schedule as my male co-workers. If I decide to have a baby, my partner and I can both take leave and not be penalized. If both my partner and I decide to go back to work after having the baby, we’ll probably be able to afford quality daycare.
I don’t have any illusions this is the norm. I’m living in a fairly socially liberal country, working in a white-collar job, and represented by a pretty powerful union. Most of the women in the world don’t have these things going for them. That doesn’t mean they deserve any less.
Body and Beauty
I’m not required to be ornamental. The negative repercussions of being fat, wearing comfortable shoes, avoiding pantyhose, or neglecting to shave my pits or legs, haven't really been that bad for me. I readily admit that my body confidence, and my refusal to inconvenience myself for "beauty", isn’t so much the result of feminist enlightenment as just giving up on trying to meet a standard I simply don’t fit. And wanting to sleep a few more minutes.
While I don’t look sloppy – I put as much effort into grooming as the average man, I think – there are a lot of jobs where a woman dressed like me would get sent home to change. In fact, back when I worked in retail, I once got sent home to change into “more fashionable” shoes.
I get comments on my “bravery” at being seen in a bathing suit – I don’t feel brave; I’m just going about my business, which happens to be swimming. Why should it be an act of bravery for a woman to be fat in public?
I’ve had conversations with several women somewhat older than me, who were surprised that I wasn’t wearing makeup (and rarely do), and assumed that I always did, just like them. And then wished they could get away with it. And if I tell them wtf do they mean, they’re gorgeous (and I mean it) and still would be without makeup, they get all squirmy and finally admit they’re really uncomfortable about anybody seeing them without their makeup and say things about being ugly without it.
I think I'd like to tag everybody at The Galloping Beaver - and not just the women. Because let's face it, feminism is good for men too.