Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reflecting

I went to a very feminist school. This was hardly optional with it being packed with about 700 women and 3 men. Not only in English & History classes did we have to listen to the plight of women, but also in Maths & Art & probably Biology too. “Aren’t you all so lucky that you get to attend an all-girls school where you are not embarrassed to speak your mind or ask your questions in class”. Well, personally, I had nothing to say about logs, sins and acute triangles no matter who was in class with me, but we all nodded along in innocent agreement.

Our teachers ranted and raved to us about how even the word, “menstruate” was an evil patriarchal word. We took it in and became determined that we would rule the world, sweet family & home aspirations be damned. Maggie Thatchers In The Breeding.

My poor father & brothers took most of the brunt. My dad eventually told me to stay out of his marriage. Shock Horror, but his wife was his slave as a housewife. My brothers mainly had a field day of winding me up, but I constantly reminded them that any images of a woman that gave them sexual urges were evil, that sex was only on a woman’s terms! (These days, I believe it is on both – or the group’s! – terms). Playboy and Penthouse were more evil than any triple 6 or inverted star for me.

Ra Ra Exhausting Ra.

I carried on into varsity with this. But slowly I was exhausting even myself. One day an old schoolmate whispered a confession to me – all she really wanted to be was a housewife, looking after her children & household. That’s what she guiltily aspired too. This is when I began to realise our teaching might have been a bit misguided. Even looking back at it, the most prominent feminist teacher had 2 children, one husband who would confess his love about our school, and she held a traditional woman’s job. She had been fighting against herself, and rallied us as her soldiers.

My poor varsity professors and tutors. They took the brunt of this backlash to “pseudo-feminism” every time they tried to explain some ridiculous theory. The Apartheid-era novel’s entire message may have been about race, but even in 3rd year they were expecting us to HUNT out the female suppression examples. And I shouted my little head off about this & their ridiculous obsession.

I am still a Feminist. But perhaps my “Feminism” needs to be defined. Often I simplify it down to being a “Genderist”. (That term makes no sense but it often shuts up the drunken argumentative guy at the bar). For me Feminism is about Choice.

Our teachers were taking our choices away from us by lauding that Feminism meant being strong and in control in EVERY situation. That being a housewife was a cop-out, and admitting to one’s fragility and sexual attractiveness was wrong. We are now having to be strong in our choices if these are to return to traditional female roles.

Feminism is still very necessary in the world. There are girls out there who are not allowed an education more because of their gender than because of their financial situation. Who women marry, and when, is still not of their choosing in many financial, racial & cultural sectors…because of their gender. Many women are not aware of their rights, choices and how to obtain these & Feminism has a duty to expose these.

One has to be so careful with the concept of Feminism. It is not about prancing into a Sudanese community and ordering women to stop the “Female Circumcision” practice, as it is barbaric from a Western point of view. It is about understanding traditional female practices, and offering women the opportunities to choose the practices they believe are right, and escaping those they personally believe are wrong and/or barbaric.

Feminism is not about acting like the women on SEX AND THE CITY. It is about having the ability to act like this if you want, or being allowed to declare abstinence and virginity until marriage (or after), and everything in-between.

At the moment the TV news programmes are focusing on Women’s Month. Yesterday morning I watched a woman talk about how many South African women are still having to hawk wares on street corners, or carry 20 kilos of water on their heads, or run households while men are away in the cities. It made me wonder if this is a Feminist issue. South African men are faced with some pretty horrible roles & responsibilities as well. Perhaps these situations, that happen to be occur with a poor female face, are not gender issues at all & recognising this will help to find solutions. But that is a sideline thought.

All these programmes carry on that “We as women have come so far BUT….”
I was thinking that tomorrow, maybe, as we lie in bed after a crazy night of drinking, dancing & maybe snogging, or we choose to stay home with a book or bad TV and get up and run several kms, or I choose to join the march to the Union Buildings after my optional French class that I choose to learn, not because a good trophy wife knows French, but because a leader of the UN needs at least 2 UN languages under her belt…Maybe we just look at how far we have come and how privileged we are in the choices we each personally have every day.

Happy Women's Day!!!!!!

23 comments:

Simon said...

Happy Womens' Day!

Champagne Heathen said...

Ah, thanks so much Simon! And thanks for the blog visit!

ATW said...

Good post Champs. I tried to rewrite your post using "human" or "person" every time your refer to female or feminism. It almost worked!

But I kind of think that is what you were trying get at - many 'feminist' issues are a result of being human and trying to the best one can in a certain set of circumstances not as a particular result of being female.

Perhaps we should celebrate a Humanist Day. Or "Choices Day".

Dave said...

I don't get it, being feminist implies being a female supremacist which in turn implies being genderist, in the same way as white supremacist implies being rascist. Surely you are non-genderist thereby promoting the equality of both genders?

The notion of having something called Womens Day is absurd. It is genderist and therefore as descibed above akin to rascism. Given that a single day of the year has been deliberately titled Womens Day does that mean by proxy that all other days of the year belong to men?

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks atw! Much appreciated, and yes, you do understand my one point. And yes, I am ultimately a Humanist. Thanks for that link too!

I don't think I even touched on my other Feminist issue - that it is so great to be a female because of so many different sides of the female character and that this needs to be celebrated. As (I horribly misquote now) that Cheryl Crow song carries on, "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a mother..." (This is not to say being male is opposing. It is this point where the very element of "male" is taken out of the equation & it is all about women. If that makes sense. Too little space & time to explain.)

Revolving Credit said...

Mmmm...based on ATW comment, this makes you 'pro-choice' in the broader sense, not just feminist.

or is that being 'Pro Informed Choice'

Champagne Heathen said...

See Dave, I'd disagree on "being feminist implies being a female supremacist". This is where Feminism becomes "fuzzy", confused, and often "pseudo", in that it started out trying to empower women into owning and being able to access daily the same rights as men. Then, I believe, some empowered women started to take it further, and perhaps, yes, fight for supremacy.

Perhaps as you say, I am a non-genderist. I do not wish rights and abilities to be based on gender at all. The classic inverse example being; if in a relationship a couple decide that the man should be the "house-husband" then society should not dictate and force otherwise.

SA Women's Day is based, as I understand it, on the recognition of the gentle strength and feminine power that shone through in a female-dominated march that happened 50 years ago in protest to Apartheid. What often happens in Pseudo-Feminism is the misrecognition of what feminine power is and where it lies. Such a day should make women reflect on this strength. Also, every year spokespeople keep speaking about the "BUT" & where we have to get to, without properly recognising where we are now & how wonderful it is.

I am all for a Men's Day too!! I am sick of men being reflected as the enemy or the punching bag. And yes, to many women on their high-horses, it does mean every other day is Men's Day.

Revolving Credit said...

PS. the song is by Meredith Brookes

Champagne Heathen said...

Well said Rev!

Champagne Heathen said...

Really? I feel like I have been living a lie for years! Ah well, changes nothing, still a fun song.

Revolving Credit said...

'BITCH ' by Meredith Brookes

I hate the world today
You're so good to me
I know but I can't change
Tried to tell you
But you look at me like maybe
I'm an angel underneath
Innocent and sweet
Yesterday I cried
Must have been relieved to see
The softer side
I can understand how you'd be so confused
I don't envy you
I'm a little bit of everything
All rolled into one
Chorus:
I'm a bitch, I'm a lover
I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream
I'm nothing in between
You know you wouldn't want it any other way

So take me as I am
This may mean
You'll have to be a stronger man
Rest assured that
When I start to make you nervous
And I'm going to extremes
Tomorrow I will change
And today won't mean a thing

Chorus

Just when you think, you got me figured out
The season's already changing
I think it's cool, you do what you do
And don't try to save me

Chorus

I'm a bitch, I'm a tease
I'm a goddess on my knees
When you hurt, when you suffer
I'm your angel undercover
I've been numb, I'm revived
Can't say I'm not alive
You know I wouldn't want it any other way

(So it's all about her realising who she is and its not who he thinks she is. I think the feminist intension is to understand who you are, be proud of it and don't hide it from other people - not really a supremacist notion, just one of self-actualisation)

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - thanks! Excellent to see those words properly. And now I am singing and dancin' in my chair.

Exactly. It's about trying to realise who we are, and to then try to get others to understand us.

So perhaps then, tomorrow, if used properly, is one step closer for the enlightment of men onto how we work & think, thereby meaning it really is Men's Day... Ja, pulling at straws.

Revolving Credit said...

Works both ways - all those who are misunderstood, standup and make yourself heard.

fly said...

hmmmm...Women's Day...There are parts that I do and dont agree with,...

I understand that there are still many woman that are treated badly thru cultural upbringing and have low self esteem issues because of this...for me this is what "Woman's Day" is about...liberating the unliberated or at least making a woman feel she has the right to be a part of society...in a lot of our local cultures this has never been the case so for that I applaud...

Happy Women's Day... :o)

ATW said...

Now this bit I can rewrite without getting stuck.

"that it is so great to be a female because of so many different sides of the human character and that this needs to be celebrated. As (I horribly misquote now) that Meredith Brooks song carries on, "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a parent..."

Househusbands of the world unite, it must be the toughest job in the world. Not only having to deal with the damn draining and tough job of parenting but also having to persistently justify one's role in life. (But I guess many of cringe at the "what do you do for a living?" question anyway).

ATW said...

Doh! the first "female" was also meant to be changed to "human".

Shortypam said...

happy womens day champs!!!! ur posts are always good to read... mwah!!!

Dolce said...

Ja, happy vrous day, Champers...I'm just flippin' pleased to have another holiday...don't care who we're celebrating!

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - Here, here! And I do everyday!

Fly - I just hope that such celebrations do reach these women who do feel excluded.

atw - excellent. I am loving your amendments!

Thanks Shorty! And Happy Happy to you too, you gorgeous chickie!

Cheers to that Dolce!

JAm said...

Happy women's day champs.
I have been through the full circle of feminism and back again. I grew up in a household with a mother who worked very hard indeed in the business world. The option of being allowed to remain at home and look after children was never offered or considered. Funny how much there are some days when I would really like to do that.

Champagne Heathen said...

Jam, it is interesting to now watch some of my old school mates have kids, and say that they would give ANYTHING to spend their days with their kids, but have no choice but to work.

Most of the time I think the topic is too confused and collapses into itself.

As others have said here - it becomes about a person's choices & abilities, rather an entire gender's choices & opportunities etc.

TwoFlower said...

Champs - you were almost correct in your history there.

our womens' day is celebrating the ANTI-PASS CAMPAIGN of 1956 that the ANC women's league and FSAW organised in opposition to the passes that the NP was trying to enforce on black women. it was a multi-racial protest and something between 8000 and 20000 women marched to the Union Buildings.

a side note: it was unsuccessful because the government started issuing passes to 'non-white' women sometime in 1958.

so in my mind, womens' day has a whole lot of history attached to it and you can make your mind up about it based on the facts i have just presented!

have a goodie!

Champagne Heathen said...

Two Flower - Love ya! Thanks so much for that! And excellent to know that my post has some factual element to it with you around.

I hope you have a great one too, and now it is 18h30 and I am up and outta here to toast myself, and everyone else, cause I'm a woman and I can!