For Women’s Equality Day* Jess shares some occasions that recently reminded us that women are not regarded as equals of men, plus two recent reads which resonated and help keep us sane when facing up to the battles of modern feminism.
While watching the 2016 Olympic Games
The Olympics is one of the rare occasions we actually get to see extensive coverage of women’s sport, which in this country is generally relegated to an hour or two at most on a Saturday afternoon, and always – always! – on a public broadcaster. (The Lingerie Football League was a rare exception – I wonder why…) So I love the Olympics. So many women doing so many amazing things! My personal favourites were the absolute goddesses of the gold medal winning Australian Rugby Sevens team.
But of course, for many viewers – and especially, it would seem, the commentators – it seemed to come as a bit of a shock that women can – just like men – be very, very good at sport. And surely they’re not as dedicated as they appear? Sport is just something they play at while they’re waiting for a man, right? That must be why everyone seemed to assume that a marriage proposal is “an even bigger prize” than the SILVER MEDAL He Zi of China had just won for herself. She clearly thinks so, look at the joy on her face when her thoughtless dolt boyfriend proposed DURING HER MEDAL CEREMONY.
Just another example of a woman’s work and success being undervalued. Here’s another one:
I mean, did you SEE Ledecky’s swim? It was absolutely incredible. If a swimmer ever deserved their own damn headline, it’s her. Of course, some in the media seem incapable of comprehending women’s agency in their own greatness: Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszou breaks a world record and a commentator points to her husband and proclaims “there’s the man responsible!”. Or even that women might be their own damn person: Corey Cogdell-Unrein, one of the most decorated trap shooters in US Olympic history, wasn’t even NAMED in one newspaper’s tweet that read “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics”. I mean, they went up hard against Twitter’s character limits just to make sure we all know who she’s married to. MUCH more important than her own name.
Then there’s the perennial problem of the difference in compensation (remember the Matildas had to go ON STRIKE just to get paid a basic living wage… despite being ranked in the top ten in the world. Where are the men’s team? Oh they make it – just – into the top sixty. And yet they were getting paid literally ten times more). And of course, the delightful scrutiny of the physical attractiveness of female athletes. Apparently, some women are “too ugly to win”. I mean, have they seen this guy?
In August 2016, when a Tasmanian woman became the world’s oldest first-time mother at the age of 63, she was wished well and not judged at all HA HA HA. Actually, she was “slammed” by “experts” for being “irresponsible” and “selfish”. What about her partner, a sprightly 78-year-old? Not quite so much mention of him in all the pearl-clutching. Only a few weeks before it had been revealed that Mick Jagger was becoming a father again at the age of 72 – the sly dog!
It’s just part and parcel of the way women are viewed as bodies first (baby makers, baby feeders, or object of desire) and actual human people second. The way mothers are held responsible for pretty much everything (until very recently, people were actually led to believe that autism was caused by “cold”, “selfish” mothers – read Neurotribes if you feel like getting really, really outraged!) The way that anti-abortion zealots regard a fully grown sentient human as less important than the clump of cells/potential human she may be pregnant with. The way that foetal endangerment has become actual law that is used against the women whose bodies are carrying those foetuses.
I wouldn’t mind being viewed as a body first if they just saw me as the FOOT that is going to connect with their ASS.
When we found out that even J-Law deals with the gender pay gap
When even the biggest movie star in the world gets screwed over in comparison to her male colleagues, what possible hope in hell do us mere mortals have? And the thing that gets me is that in this day and age, in most workplaces, it’s not as though the boss is sitting there wondering to themselves “how can I oppress women today?”. They might just unconsciously value men more – and they definitely work within the limits of what is basic and systemic sexism. It’s depressing. Almost as depressing as having to argue the existence of the gender pay gap at all. (It’s a myth! Women just prefer the lower-paid industries! Men do more dangerous stuff so OF COURSE they get paid more! Men are objectively better workers so they’re just being paid on merit! Women just want to work part-time! Ad infinitum…)
The excuse that drives me the battiest (the FRIGHT BATTIEST you could say) is when we’re told that women “just don’t negotiate forcefully enough” for higher pay. LOL. I have seen with my own eyes what happens when women try to be “forceful” – they’re perceived as aggressive troublemakers and can end up not getting the job at all, let alone the pay they’re after. It’s a no-win situation, but apparently it’s all our own fault.
I guess you’re wondering how I get through the day when I’m choking on so much RAGE.
You’re probably not terribly surprised to discover that one of the main ways I keep myself from killing all men tearing my hair out is by reading. (I do work for a publisher, after all. I like words). Books, blogs, articles – I love them all. And it’s so incredibly, indescribably wonderful when you read something that perfectly sums up, perfectly captures, perfectly articulates some of the MANY experiences you endure go through as a woman that leave you feeling… conflicted. “Yes!” you shout in recognition. “THAT’S what it was!”
I’ve read two books recently that did just that – offered those “Eureka!” moments and related the political to the personal (and vice versa) in such a way that you start to glimpse the shadowy outlines of the brutal system we’re all forced to operate in. I highly recommend both to any reader who needs to remind herself that it’s not her – it’s not just her – it’s really not.
I love me some Clementine Ford. She’s funny and unapologetic and she gives as good as she gets (and boy oh boy, does she get – imagine the most disgusting, dehumanising, pointedly sexual abuse, then multiply it by a factor of ten. That’s about half of what Clementine cops online). Some people find this confronting and argue that her “vitriolic writing style means that people will always get offended” and thus they’ll never be able to persuaded that women are people feminism is “paramount to our future”. Well, fuck. Why the hell is the onus to be polite and reasonable on the woman being told she is an ‘ugly cumdumster [sic] whose twelve-inch vibrator probably doesn’t even touch the sides of her gaping c***’? COME ON.
Fight Like a Girl is remarkably personal – and I don’t mean that in the slightly condescending way about which male reviewers often describe female authors. It is personal and it is BRAVE. Clementine writes about many aspects of her own life – she’s particularly excellent on what it’s like growing up female and the horrible, horrible transition when the world decides it’s time to treat you as a sex object while you still feel like are a child. Let’s stop worrying about being liked, she says, if they’re only going to like us when we shut up. It’s time to (TITLE DROP!) Fight Like a Girl.
— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) August 2, 2016
Delightful Sara Pascoe is delightful! This hilarious book discusses some pretty serious subjects: “boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions”, just for starters.
I was a bit concerned (when not snorting coffee out my nose) by the emphasis on evolutionary perspectives on human development – evolutionary psychology is one of the most discredited branches of science and has been used far too often to give some kind of Scientific Authority to the status quo and gender stereotypes. Thankfully Sara is well aware of these issues and possibly even more cynical than me!
I greatly enjoyed her demolishment of the more ridiculous ideas (like the 1950s study that concluded that the 90% of women who reported not having orgasms through vaginal penetration alone must all be ‘abnormal’ – do these fellows know what words MEAN???) and will be forever grateful for the introduction to the absolutely insane “aquatic ape hypothesis”.
Highly recommended for anyone possessing a vagina; and also for all those who don’t.
Happy Women’s Equality Day*!
* Women’s Equality Day is on 20 August in the United States, and while Australia doesn’t seem to have one (shock!) I believe it shouldn’t be restricted to ONE DAY A YEAR (although we are fans of International Women’s Day). However, Australians may wish to look into Equal Pay Day on 8 September and get ready to FIGHT LIKE A GIRL for fair pay!