Sunday, 18 March 2012

Stand by your man (or why moving my whole life to another country to be with my husband basically makes me the best feminist ever)

Okay, so the title is a bit of a joke - for one it's far too long, and it's certainly a little hyperbolic. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not really big on causes or activism (or making out that I'm the best at anything). I'll speak my piece when I really sense injustice or even unkindness, but I don't tend to take a big stand on anything because I like to look at issues and events from a multitude of perspectives. Some people may see this as weak or indecisive; I have come to see it as open-minded and an attempt to push away from ego- and ethnocentrism. So, much as I support my fellow woman, I've never been much of a purposeful feminist.

To be honest, feminism has always been something of an odd concept to me. For one, it sounds like "communism", at least with its suffix, and so tends to imply a negative thing just via etymology, if not also by association and/or presumptions about people that might advocate such a perspective. It seems the general image of a feminist is still, sadly, a butch, man-hating, angry female. But this clearly isn't true; modern feminism is developing a new face, and it's one that doesn't shriek "anti-male", but more confidently hails "pro-equality".

I guess this is where I come in. I take more of an evolutionary psychologist kind of view on the subject: I've never been much of a feminist because I think that differences should be celebrated, not necessarily overcome, and on top of that, I've been lucky enough to live in societies that, while maybe a little male-biased, have never made me feel like a second-class citizen because I'm female. I've never felt less able, less appreciated, or less than for being a girl in any major way. I haven't had to fight. Some people may disagree with this - what with corporate glass ceilings, default masculine language; not to mention the psychological theories of socially constructed gender identities, and so on - and I am merely writing from my own perspective. I certainly don't have any directly-related academic credentials to back this up, but I do have some thoughts. I don't advocate making a massive fuss over the teensy issues, and I certainly don't like the idea of creating aggression and conflict when people can rub along well enough in spite of - and sometimes because of - their differences. It is only when differences become stereotyped to the point of prejudice and discrimination that society will inevitably have a problem. Other than that, the fact that men have dangly bits and women have bazooms seems to work well enough to me. It's just stating the differences then, no hierarchy implied.

On top of that, whether you are a feminist, apathetic, or anti-feminist, there is one universal truth: we're all human. The fact that I moved countries, and Ben didn't, has nothing to do with me being female. I am happily in love with another human being, and we worked together to ensure that we could share the same physical space in the most practical way possible for both of us. We are a team. He is a man, and I am a woman, but we are both human. He is my best friend and the love of my life. His being male had something to do with the latter, because of both of our sexualities (and that is a whole other post!), but in terms of our equality, it matters not a jot. Working together, standing up for each other, avoiding conflict by listening: relationship strategies between two people such as these could very easily be applied to addressing differences between two genders, in my opinion. There is no need for a struggle to be "better", to put the other down. You're in it together.

So, why say something now? Well, much as I would like to stay quiet, I have been reading so much anti-female news in the States over the past month that I simply can't any more. Apparently women's freedom should be restricted because we're baby-makers. As a Brit, I am just appalled, and a little scared.

There have been attacks on the female sex on the basis of contraception access, sexual promiscuity, and the choice of abortion. The picture above, sent to me by a friend here, pretty much sums it up. Between Rush Limbaugh calling one specific woman a "slut" for using her right to speak up for the availability of contraception on health insurance plans - and by extension all women who use contraception, because apparently that means the state are paying for them to have sex without getting pregnant; a privilege denied to women because we were stupid enough to be born with foetus-carrying equipment - to the proposal of laws that can force a doctor to lie to pregnant patients, or require a woman to go through invasive and distressing gynaecological procedures prior to being given the right to choose an abortion, it seems that the "war on women" is more than just a catchphrase.

The greater medical liberty I enjoyed in the UK has certainly coloured this post, but a list of comparisons will not do much to help here. So, this is how I see it, without any of the particulars being discussed. I have no qualms about doing things for my man, because he's my person. The gender difference is just factual, not a statement of opposition. I don't want to see a fight between men and women. It should be a fight against injustice that affects other human beings. Men and women need to come together, work together, stand up for each other, on this and other issues. Speak together, because you're on the same side.

When women are verbally and/or politically attacked, they do not need to be angry with the attacker - if a man - because he is a man necessarily, but because what (s)he is saying is unjust, because it is ignorant, because it encourages bigotry. Equally, when it comes to these particular issues, men can stand up for and with their female counterparts. Denying other human beings the right to choose what happens to their own bodies is morally abhorrent, and assumes that someone else knows what's best for other people. No one has that right, and not only does it create clearly prejudicial circumstances, it sets a precedent for people in power to make choices for all those living in that regime. Yes, I said regime. It would not be a free place.

We have a voice, and we are louder together. I know that my partner will stand up for my right to make my own choices about what happens to my body. I also know that I will do the same thing for him, should the occasion arise. So that makes us both pretty awesome feminists in my book.

Source: Merriam-Webster online


  1. Yes, some of the attitudes are really quite shocking for a Brit! The Conservative Christians in the US are trying very hard to roll back the clock, in terms of the rights of groups like women and gay people.

    These battles were essentially won decades ago in the UK and the majority of British Conservatives accept, or even support women's and gay rights nowadays. I am living in a liberal oasis down in Gainesville, but surrounded by a lot of southern conservative types. I can't say that it's ideal!

  2. I know; the fact that these things are already resolved in England but are still so up for discussion here blows my mind, especially when I am asked daft questions like, "Are you a lot more free in the USA, then?". Err... no.

    I guess there's so much reinforcement to be backwards (in this sense) that people can get away with basic bigotry and discriminate in this way.


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