Wednesday 22 August 2012

Feminist Postcards

When I was growing up, my bedroom walls were adorned with crap. I stuck pretty much everything up there. My walls looked a bit like the office wall of a TV detective, except that instead of maps and murder suspects, mine were decorated with posters of Hanson (yes, Hanson. Zac specifically. Yes, the young one. I was young too. Shut up.), photos and postcards.

The postcards had been supplied by my Mum. She used to go to the Labour Party Conference every year, and would go round the stalls collecting all the postcards she could find. The ones that made it onto the wall were usually calling for animal rights or women’s rights. Feminism is one of my Mum’s passions (in fact, she once burned her bra - see footnote), and she raised me and my sister to be aware of the issues.
From the age of 12 I had a postcard on my wall that had lots of hands reaching out to a girl, the postcard read: “I have the right not to be touched unless I want to be.” People used to pull strange faces at that postcard.
I also had a postcard that had a boy baby and a girl baby looking into their nappies, it read: “Well, that explains the difference in our pay then.” I liked this one a lot, and when my Mum gave it to me she accompanied it with a short speech about equal pay (she must have been inspired by a speech at the conference perhaps). I remember over the years numerous friends telling me that the postcard was out of date because we know had equal pay. We didn’t, and we still don’t. In fact, it has been estimated that we won’t have equal pay until 2067. My daughter will be 55 years old by then, I cannot explain how depressing this is.
My favourite postcard of all time was a paragraph about why we are feminists (see picture). I loved it. It really summed up all of the issues I felt were important to me as a feminist. I loved the postcard so much that I once copied the text onto a t-shirt which I wore for most of the year 2000 until I realised that everyone else was wearing clothes from Topshop and not homemade feminist t-shirts, and then I quickly conformed.
I have always identified myself as a feminist, but most of my friends growing up wouldn’t have described themselves using such a word. Feminist was seen as a dirty word and people didn’t like using it. I have had many a friend say things like: “You’re a feminist, aren’t you Fiona?” as though it was an abnormality. I used to find it funny that my friends couldn’t see that they too fit under the banner of feminist merely by the way they lived their lives and the opinions they held.
I think there is still this stigma around the word feminism, and some women don’t like the term because of the associated connotations. I think feminism is a spectrum, and although you may not be on the bra burning end of the spectrum, it doesn’t mean the term doesn’t apply to you. Women (and men) have been fighting for equality for a long, long time. And some people think the fight has been won. We have the vote, we have jobs, we get maternity pay, surely that’s it then. Job done, right?
Clearly not. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper (or, more suitably, click on a Facebook trending article) to see that sexism is rife in today’s society. The past few months have highlighted to me how important feminism still is.
From abortion, to rape, to the recession (women have been more affected than men by the cuts), to the work place (women are more likely to be made redundant than men); it is clear that we do not yet enjoy equal rights. Not only that, but if the current media discussions are anything to go by, we are at risk of going backwards.
There are always idiots in the world, and these idiots can usually be found in pubs spewing out hateful sexist opinions after a few too many special brews. Sadly, these people exist. But they’re not usually given a public platform to express these opinions from. For some reason, over the past few weeks a number of politicians have expressed misogynistic views about rape.
US Senate Todd Akin announced that victims of legitimate rape don’t get pregnant because their bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy. So I guess he came up with an interesting way of judging alleged rape cases. If the victim falls pregnant, it definitely wasn’t rape. That should save the courts a bit of money.
Then just days later, our own misogynistic fool, George Galloway said that not everybody needs to be asked before each insertion. Apparently waking up with someone having sex with you is merely “bad sexual etiquette” and not rape. Except it is rape, because if you’re asleep you can’t consent. And who the fuck has sex with sleeping people anyway??
I’ve heard a lot of crap about this Assange business. I’m tired of hearing people that claim to be feminists excuse the witnesses’ claims as being part of a conspiracy. If Assange is wanted for arrest in Sweden for what amounts to crimes against women, then he should go to Sweden and face his warrant of arrest. Hiding in an embassy and giving speeches out a window is hardly inspiring stuff. And during his speech he spoke of freedom of speech, but I didn’t hear him mention sexual offences. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the people singing his praises have no clue what it is he’s accused of. For those interested, this a great article about the popular Assange myths making the rounds.
I want to cry every time I hear people saying that what he’s accused of isn’t even rape. Firstly, it is rape. But most people seem unaware of that, and have gotten stuck on the accusations of having sex without a condom. Even if it was just that, isn’t that bad enough? Should men have the right to decide to take risks with women’s bodies? Should it be the man’s decision to potentially impregnate the woman, and spread disease? Shouldn’t women have a right to protect their bodies from disease and unwanted pregnancy?
Clearly we have a long way to go before we are deemed equal citizens. I think I’d better go and invest in some postcards for Ebony’s bedroom wall.
Footnote: One day last year, my Mum was carrying an overly full basket of laundry from the utility room. As she passed through the kitchen, one of her bras (which was spilling over the top of the laundry basket) fell on the hob (which happened to be on) and caught fire.

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