Monday, 30 May 2011

Feminism- A Man’s Word?

Are you a feminist? If not, why not? Are you ideologically opposed to gender equality, or are you a woman who has been made to feel ashamed about feminism by a man?

I’m not going to write this piece apologetically- I am a feminist and proud- and you should be too. Men have done a tremendous job of making women feel like feminism is for no-one but shaven-headed, briefcase-brandishing ‘lesbians’, and it’s about time women stood up and put the record straight.

For a start, there’s nothing wrong with being a skinhead, homosexual working woman. But the problem is, men have characterised feminists in such a way that the concept isn’t one that appeals to women any more. Women who endorse feminism feel increasingly belittled by men who like nothing more than stereotyping them for their own benefit. Of course, ladies, men are going to be reductive about feminism, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

Increasingly, working women are realising that they can’t ‘have it all’, and no, they won’t see as much of their children if they devote most daylight hours to their career. But housewives can be feminists too, because feminism is a belief, not a lifestyle choice. Feminists shouldn’t be an endangered species; everyone should be one. It seems like the root of the problem is that men and women have forgotten what feminism is. Modern notions of feminism, conveniently informed by men, involve ‘dykes’ and ‘pitbulls’, and no woman wants to be labelled as something she doesn’t believe she is, so she rejects any notions of feminism, even if she does believe in what it actually stands for. Feminists, as Mary Wollstonecraft would have us believe, support equal rights for women and fair access to education, and yet so many of us dismiss the idea embodying these values.

Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden, recently denounced feminism, stating “I'm not a feminist. I consider my position in the business world not as a woman but as a person”. I find it astounding that such high-profile figures, role models even, are embarrassed to call themselves feminists. It is feminism that allows her to enter boardrooms, feminism that supports her status as a person. Her entire notions of self, the basis of how she considers herself are grounded in the work that feminists did for women nearly 200 years ago. If we are ever to close the gender pay gap, if women are ever to be considered and the political, social and economical equals to men, then we must stop listening to the men who tell us that feminists are ‘butch’ and start truly recognising the pioneering intelligence of our female ancestors.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Pill- a woman's world?

Firstly, apologies for my prolonged absence! April was taken up by a busy internship at Vogue, and now I'm in the throng of university exams. This blog will return in all its glory on the 24th May 2011.

Family Planning Clinics are the sexually-active, seventeen-year-old female’s saving grace. They are a sanctuary of safety where, unbeknown to many a male of a similar age, women are given comfort, liberty, and perhaps most importantly, choice.

In the early sixties the combined oral contraceptive pill, simply known as ‘the pill’, was introduced. With what I would hope should be an obvious effect on the concept of ‘creation’, the pill also transformed female culture and the lives of women as it was rolled out across the world.

Of course the pill is widely available beyond the Family Planning Clinics of Britain and to women of all ages. But living during a time where the consumer is king and all manner of contraceptives are available over the counter, it’s easy to understate the difference that the pill made for couples and women in particular. Do women, on their mad morning dash to the nurse’s room, really understand what the consequences of a frenetic one night stand once were? Do we know how lucky we are?

I would argue no. Despite the condom’s induction in the late nineteenth century, the pill gave women autonomous control over their bodies, and the ability to submit to their carnal desires, rubber or no rubber. The liberating effects of the pill were dramatic, as women were able to protect themselves from pregnancy of their own volition.

But men have a right to be anxious. The degree of independence that the pill permitted gave women an unprecedented amount of power to wield. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but condoms are mutual. You know if he’s wearing one, and you’re well within your rights to refuse sex if he isn’t. However, as far as my limited research has informed me, guys just don’t get and often don’t trust the pill.

And with good reason. The culture of women abusing the power that the pill allows them exists and is breeding. Sadly, as if sex isn’t enough of a weapon, it’s not unheard of for women to control their fertility through erratic and deceptive use of the pill. Some admit to using men to provide children, saying they’re on the pill when they’re not, others even get pregnant to ensure a permanent connection between themselves and the father of their child. Whilst the pill undoubtedly represents a huge advancement in the fields of medicine, technology and women’s rights (more people have taken it than any other prescribed medicine in the world) one might be hard pushed to establish a basis upon which the pill furthered sexual equality. After all, surely sexual relationships are more equal when both the male and the female have tangible control over their contraceptive choices.

For many men, the pill is just too invisible to trust and condoms are just fine, thank you very much. We should credit the male species with the intelligence to realise that enhanced sexual pleasure perhaps isn’t worth it when an unplanned pregnancy is the alternative option, and if men refuse to wear condoms, then we can refuse intercourse.

It most commonly argued that the pill meant that preventing pregnancy was in a woman's hands; she could take the pill at her discretion, without anyone knowing and without depending on a man. But since when were condoms the sole responsibility of the male sexual partner? Perhaps the real issue was that women did not know how to have their say in the bedroom and the pill gave them that voice.

As for where that leaves the pill, I would be the first person to advocate that the little white tablets have made sex a more enjoyable experience for those in long-term, healthy and trusting relationships. The pill is a tool and a symbol of female emancipation, but it wasn’t invented so that women could sleep around easily and frequently and it certainly wasn’t supposed to keep men in the dark. However, a wider choice of contraceptives that take the pressure off women to have sex without condoms definitely has positive implications. With or without the pill, responsibility should be the first thing on everyone’s minds- there’s no excuse for relying on the Family Planning Clinic any more.