Monday, March 03, 2008

Why I'm a Feminist

On Saturday the Glasgow Feminist network held a public participatory reading at Borders entitled 'Why I'm a Feminist'. Instead of coming along and having an author or scholar do all the talking, people brought along books and materials that opened their eyes to the fight for gender equality.
I searched around for something by Ensler or Dworkin or Greer or... well any of the feminist authors in my bookshelves that would sum up my reasons, but no-one truly represented my reasons for being a feminist. I then forgot about it until the day, and with nothing else to read I wrote down my piece on both sides of an A4 sheet and jumped on the subway into town without editing or re-reading (looking back, I'm proud that I remembered my statistics correctly!). Here it is with added references.

I wasn't always a feminist. When I was a little girl I just assumed I would be treated fairly... or better than boys because they were smelly and I was pretty and a princess and everybody loved me, of course - but even then there were signs that I was wrong. An example of this is the nursery picture books I loved. There was mummy the housewife or the beautiful queen, and there was daddy the farmer, baker, banker, king, outdoor hero, he-who-saves-one-from-the-big-bad-wolf. The princess would love being pretty, was chastised for messiness and a temper (also known as an opinion) and always needed a prince for lifelong happiness. Lastly, the doctors were men and the nurses were women. Always.
I internalised all of this. I hated trousers and Lego because those were for my brother and told Dad that I wanted to be a nurse "because that's what girls do". He told me that was good and nursing is an honourable profession, but girls could be doctors too. I didn't believe him. (I recently discovered that, around this time, my mum finished her job as a research Biologist not only because she wanted to see her children more but also because she was being given a hard time at work since giving birth to us.)
Then I entered the real world. A world where famous chefs are men but we'd never dream of giving a boy a toy kitchen or iron or anything domestic because it's too feminising. A world where Wal-Mart pulled a line of T-shirts featuring a girl saying 'Someday a woman will be president' because it was in some way 'anti-family values' yet kept the one of a boy shoving an 'uppity' girl ("Problem solved!") despite the worldwide epidemic of domestic violence. A world where I'm told to be scared to go out after dark, even though statistically I'm 10 times more at risk of victimisation from an intimate whilst my brother's more likely to be, and has been attacked by a stranger when out. Where the woman who married Steve Wright, the Ipswich murderer, was recently asked if she thought that if only she'd had more sex with her husband, he wouldn't have seen and killed those women. Where my bodily freedom is government-controlled, whether I want to plan or end a pregnancy. Where I'm 'asking for it' if I get raped whilst drunk even though the majority of rapists are inebriated when they attack, yet that somehow excuses them. Where I'm still likely, in our modern country, to be paid less and given fewer opportunities than my male counterparts, where male violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities to 15-44 year olds than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war put together, where almost a third of the British public say violence against women is absolutely fine and half - 50%, one-in-two! - say domestic violence is a private matter that should remain behind closed doors where we can't hear or do anything about it - and where people who say they want this all changed for the better are called man-haters, crazy, or worst of all, ugly fat spinsters *cue mock distress*.

I don't have the answers to this. I believe that my position is perfectly logical and morally right, and I want people to know that when half the population of the world is poorer, less healthy and more frightened than the other, I care. I want REAL equality, new attitudes, men proud to be sensitive and women proud to be assertive; people being who they are as opposed to what they are told they should be.

And I'm going to med school this year.
Your future doctor is a feminist.

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