The war has ended, let peace and prosperity reign!
Celebrate the servicemen returning,
Coming back here and taking our jobs.
We have the Sex Disqualification Act now,
But we’re still expected to work the same
Long hours as our male counterparts.
Still disqualified from equal pay and benefits,
Earning half the amount of men in most industries,
Not based on half the ability but
Decided only on our sex.
Still we’re here, keeping the home fires burning.
Chin up, come on old girl,
Back to “women’s work” we go.
We’re allowed to work on assembly lines now,
But of course none of us are allowed to supervise.
Only one in ten married women work because it’s
Not possible to do a full working day and manage the
Laundry, dishes, cleaning, sewing,
Care, cooking, child-growing
Of a family.
Well done! Well done, sister suffragette –
We have the vote, we made a change!
But only if you’re a woman of a certain age.
30 years or older please
Because a woman has no wisdom at
19 or 20.
Screen screen screen, screen,
One more hour and I swear I’ll scream.
Too many small boxes filled with faces,
All in one Zoom or Team or FaceTime
But separated by walls, the divisions between us both real and virtual,
Only one face per rectangular box.
My mind feels like it is melting in this flat upright world of screens.
How can I explore when the only Explorer I have is Internet?
Now of course obsolete. Who browses that way any more?
What will we say that about in 6 months or 6 years?
What more will we lose and let fade away…
Chin up, come on old girl,
Don’t think like that.
You’re still safe within the four walls of your home,
Staring safely at the untouchable screen,
Routinely seeing the same faces in their boxes.
Look but don’t touch
Those people I can see,
As I ache to hug the people closest to me.
So unspeakably grateful to have work to do,
No one coming over here, taking our jobs.
Equal pay for all!
(Except for that pesky 12-25% gender gap we don’t like to mention.)
Did you know there are still no sectors of the economy where women are paid the same as men across the board?
You don’t want to get me started on diversity on boards.
We keep those home fires burning and we have to work so hard to
Keep those home fires burning,
Because those bills aren’t going to pay themselves and that fire needs lighting by someone!
A lower salary is better than no salary, am I right ladies?
Who says we can’t have it all?
No, no there’s no discrimination here!
“Go to work, or don’t,” has been uttered and it’s utterly unclear.
That is if you have work to go to, of course.
Is it a relief to be furloughed or has it become yet another thing to make us feel low?
For business or pleasure our link to the outside world,
To each other is through these rectangular portals,
The screens to another dimension.
I’ve dreamed in Zoom –
I saw boxes floating in front me as I walk down a street,
Heads suspended in small rectangles, obscuring my vision of what should be in front of me,
Screens replacing reality.
Some of us have started sewing ostensibly for sanity.
Masks, patchwork, blankets, clothes.
It’s more than make do and mend now.
It’s make, create and hold on to something physical, hold on to reality as we
Try not to disappear…
I have turned to cooking.
I step into the kitchen away from the computer,
Taking in the solid comforts of hob, the pots, the pans and the oven
As I prepare my next comfort food.
I chop, mix, scrape, knead, stir, bash, fry, bake, grill, caramelise, sear, boil, toast.
I feel calm as I cross the threshold and leave my flat phone, tablet and computer worlds behind.
I find unexpected solace in hoovering, cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the kitchen floor, clearing pots and pans away.
For those minutes and hours I forget about the boxes looming on the horizon, waiting for me.
In this pocket of domesticity, I don’t have to look too far ahead and
My view is filled with 3-dimensional objects of all shapes and sizes.
I, a woman,
Turn away from work, back in time towards the odd relief of
Cooking and cleaning.
And I can’t help but think as the wartime words pour out from the mouths of our leaders,
What would the women of 1920 make of this?
The women who lived through a real war and fought so hard
For the right to vote and
For the right to work and
For the right to be seen as equal.
What does it mean in 2020 to be this woman?
Initial reactions to Emma Watson’s #HeForShe launch speech at the UN Conference last week were fairly positive. Then a bunch of 4chan lowlives threatened to leak naked photos of her and made a countdown to her death (whether that was meant as a metaphorical death like the death of her reputation or as a real thing is unclear. Either way it was shamefully horrible, creepy and nasty) and support for Watson and the campaign soared.
For the record, I support the campaign and think it is a positive step in the right direction for achieving gender equality.
Main Point / Argument:
A friend of mine told me she was disappointed because she watched the speech after seeing it hyped up and shared a lot on Facebook but expected more from it. I agree with her assessment – the speech was good but not the most rousing, amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But here’s why I think that’s ok: it didn’t need to be. It wasn’t meant for me. It wasn’t meant for my friend either. It wasn’t a speech for the interested and engaged feminist. It wasn’t really a speech meant for women at all. It was relatively mild and it was measured and it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It wasn’t that inspiring to us female-women-lady-folk because it wasn’t aimed at us in the first place. It was a speech for men. It was an introduction to feminism for men, particularly men who are afraid or ignorant of it. It was a baby step for those who cannot yet confidently walk in feminism’s equality based corridors. And it was exactly right to be so.
A lot of people seem to think the campaign sends the wrong message, but we’re painfully naïve if we think everything will change in a day or with one campaign. The message the #HeForShe campaign sends is not that it’s a boys’ club at all, rather that it’s a boy’s way in to a girls’ club – very much a reversal of the stereotypes we’re used to (also check out my navigation of that complex, correct apostrophe usage. All hail good grammar! God I hope I got it right.) Historically, the boy version of a club comes first and the girls are allowed in later via a sometimes patronising, watered down version, e.g. scouts and brownies. This campaign is a magnificent idea. It’s providing an entry point (snigger) for men into feminism.
This is not about giving feminism legitimacy by asking the men to be in it. This is about demystifying feminism so they stop being afraid of it. It’s not a perfect version of the message nor a perfect message, but hey, guys? News just in: it’s not a perfect world. The same aforementioned intelligent, feminist, woman friend of mine who was disappointed by the speech said:
“It shouldn’t be about their mothers and daughters and wives and sisters. They should just understand that we’re equal humans and that should be enough to make them feminists.”
And she’s right. It should be enough that we’re people, and to treat us with anything but equality is mistreatment. But it’s not like that. It has been demonstrated time and again throughout history across the world that it is not enough. And all the “but it should be” in the world doesn’t seem to change that.
So we have to take our strategy back a few steps and think practically.
Perceived gripes / problems / some true things:
*Yes. The campaign is a fair bit behind where a lot of thinking women are today.
*Yes. The campaign is being marketed for men – something that seems counterintuitive for a movement that is about equality for women.
*Yes. It absolutely sucks that we apparently cannot effect the change we want on our own, that for there to be progression we must have male support.
Or we could look at it this way:
*If you’re one of those thinking women then, yay and congratulations, not everyone is as smart as you. You’re a progressive thinker, ahead of the curve, you’re correct and the bloody UN says so! Hooray for you!! You believe we should all be equal because we’re human regardless of gender, race, religion or culture – and so with this knowledge and human understanding and international support, you have the power to educate and do good things. So be active, make a difference and use it wisely.
*The campaign is being marketed for men because they’re behind. They’re the ones who need to catch up. The male marketing isn’t a negative, it’s a positive. We’re making it accessible. It’s being marketed to the feminist minority. Isn’t that kind of amazing? Plus I remember reading about a psychological study years ago (apology for lack of reference – it was in a psychology magazine from maybe 2009, so literally years ago) that posited that if a woman tells her friend that she thinks a man is good looking, the friend won’t necessarily also think this man is attractive. But if a man tells his friend that a woman is good looking, his friend is likely to agree with him and they all go “yeah mate she’s well fit” together. The upshot of this was a conclusion about group mentality and how men are more likely to agree with each other about good ideas and attractive people. So if men are more likely to do that, doesn’t it make sense to get a big group of them into feminism so more of them see it as a good idea and follow suit?
*Political campaigns know full well they need the female vote as well as the male vote to win. This is like that. Feminism is the presidential candidate and so we have to get the male vote as well as the female vote, because men are also people and we need and want them on our side because we’re the good guys and why would we not welcome more good guys? We want to win. So let’s get more good guys on board.
Feminism is not about isolating ourselves or elevating ourselves to so far above men that they feel they cannot reach us. Feminism is about equality. For women. And, by definition of equality, also for men. It’s about equality between the genders / sexes. And we need both of those binary bastards to be on board if it’s going to work.
This is a campaign to raise awareness. It’s not for you – the one who is already aware. It’s not for you because you’re already there. You’re already involved by the virtue of being female and thinking and feminist and we’re not just preaching to the choir now. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be the minority asking for equality but then complain when we’re treated like the majority. We started this club. And now we’re opening the doors to new members. If you’re already a member there’s no need to reapply.
I’m terrible at maths and I’m slightly scared of it. I couldn’t attend a degree level maths class and I wouldn’t want to. Furthermore, if someone invited me into a beginners maths class and I saw on the sign up sheet that loads of experts were going to be there I’d be terrified and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and would probably be put off signing up. We learn gradually. We don’t jump in at the deep end of knowledge. We can’t expect to effect change and teach people about feminism if we’re not willing to give them the time to learn. It’s not patronising, it’s understanding. And yes, we may be impatient for them to catch up but we have only just properly, publicly asked them to join. We’re trying to overturn an ingrained mentality that has been present for most of humanity’s existence. Old habits die hard and this – prejudice – is one of the oldest habits around. Give the newbies a chance. Because sadly, it’s not enough that we’re all human and deserve equality.
So here’s what I suggest to my fellow wonderful, intelligent, feminist women: be happy that we’re on an internationally, publicly supported road to achieving gender equality. Realign your expectations of this campaign. Stop thinking about it in terms of what belongs to you. Feminism / equality is for everyone. And in lieu of being able to sign up on the website for yourself, ask a man you know to sign up (link provided below) and educate him. Open the door, welcome a new member to the club, share the knowledge and help the world change to be better.
Gentlemen! Sign up here:
While walking the 10 minutes from work to the station today, a man began following me. At first, I didn’t notice he was talking to me. Why would I? I was on my own. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be talking to me.