Feminism has never been so important. We haven’t won. We haven’t got equality. We have to push on and we have to keep going.
This post has been brewing for a while. I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale (no spoilers in case you’ve not watched or finished watching but you must), I’ve realised that I have no pension provision whatsoever set up (this is my bad, but has to change… as someone said as Women’s Hour, we have to stop calling it a pension and call it our future salary… did you know that if you claim Child Benefit, EVEN IF you don’t qualify and have to pay it back, it protects your contributions as the system marks you as being primary childcare, so you don’t have to top up your NI voluntarily… yep, they kept that one quiet). And so I’ve been thinking about disparities between the sexes. And then good BBC Jersey (which should know better) posted a piece on its Facebook about Breastfeeding, actually inviting people to write what they thought. Cue lots and lots of posts about covering up, modesty, and staying at home. Genuinely, it felt terribly un BBC and I have no doubt that their stats went sky high. Well done. Make it even harder on new mums, but increase your viewing stats. Slow hand claps all round.
Last week I was sat having in that sacred first half hour of the day that comes with summer holidays. I had a coffee and Lorraine was on in the background. Sure, it’s mind rot, but sometimes the clothes are nice. They had picked up on a Mumsnet post about putting your make-up on in public. And for ten whole minutes of morning TV about women; are they being impolite or is it fine to put on their make-up. I have never, ever seen a comparable piece on two men, and whether picking their nose on a train, or their teeth, or whatever it is they do (putting on make-up by all means) is acceptable.
About a year ago I got caught in a bit of a disagreement. I remember remarking to a friend (also female) in the wake of Brexit, in those heady days where Trump was still a laughing stock, that if women could just stop trying to put each other down they might one day rule to the world. See women undermine and judge women ALL THE TIME. See Daily Mail and sidebar of shame for reference. Observe the female journalists happy to put their names to the articles claiming someone is ‘flaunting’ their pregnancy (read, they are pregnant and in swimwear), or ‘showing off’ their weight loss (read, wearing not jeans).
We still have a very long way to go.
When I breastfed I was twice asked by women to stop. One suggested I go to the toilet to feed (this was someone I actually knew, who also had a newborn, and I was indignant and refused), another stared at me so hard that I felt uncomfortable, and I left and took refuge in the Mothercare feeding room, complete with rocking chairs and water (now sadly closed, it’s a photography studio). Once a man asked me to move as well. I said I was comfortable where I was. He clearly wasn’t, but there we go. On the whole though it was women who made me feel bad for my choice. Women and a man who worked in a bar and couldn’t view a boob as anything other than something sexual.
I’m not going to rant on about breastfeeding ad infinitum. Man, it’s what boobs are for (more on boobs later).
I’m going to head back to the Handmaid’s Tale, it’s only pulled audiences of 1.5million in the UK, which is at odds with my highly technical straw poll of friends, which has seen all of us avid viewers.
I didn’t watch the first episode, pre-occupied with some series or another on BBC. But my Mum mentioned it, and so I dipped in on catch up, and was instantly hooked. I must also confess to never having read Margaret Atwood. As a teen I devoured novels that focussed on a dystopian future, but somehow I missed her. That it is as pertinent now, thirty years after it was written is a little depressing.
What I found incredibly telling both in the novel, and the series, is that women are pitched against women. The fertile are put into the infertile women’s homes, they are put in direct competition with each other. They are there showing the other what they don’t have. The men just crack on running the world. Being just fine. It’s the women who are systematically raped. It’s the women who have their own infertility called up as a failure that needs to be remedied. It’s women against women….
But sometimes there is a beacon of hope. My Father-in-Law Whatsapped the other week to demand his progeny (three boys) all watched the Rugby World Cup Final. One son was bemused. He then clarified it was the women’s. This was covered in this morning’s BBC news bulletin. That it was second on the bill felt as though we have come so far. I won’t start on the pay gap (not just in sport eh BBC? though clearly there are light years between men and women’s rugby). I would have been doing high fives all around to celebrate this seed change, and for women’s sport (not just women presenting sport) hitting the mainstream. Had it not been for the lead item on the sports bulletin. The boxing.
I don’t have a problem with boxing per se (I just actively dislike it), but what I do have a problem with is this:
I have a f**cking HUGE problem with this.
I don’t have a problem with sponsorship. Whatevs. It makes the world go round, yadda yadda. Corona, knock yourselves out. Pay vast swathes of money to have your name in the background of the boxing preamble. But get it off women’s boobs. Seriously. Corona, I won’t be drinking you any time soon. This is not OK. And actually, all sports bulletins, putting the female rugby result second on the bill does not offset the absence of cropping. It does not make me unsee two women in bikinis, whose soul purpose it is to stand looking all sexy (complete with the Daphne from Scooby Doo hip wiggle, you know the one I’m talking about) while covering sport. Show the boxing. Show the sport. Do not show two fully clothed men, who will fight later that night flagged by two scantily clad women in sponsored bikinis. It’s not OK. And showing the women’s rugby afterwards only goes to show how far you think we’ve come, and yet enforce quite how little we have progressed.
So yes. Sometimes it feels like we’ve come a long way. But in reality… I’m (depressingly) not so sure….