Yeah, that’s right.
I’m gonna drop the ‘F’ bomb.
A word hated and feared, derided and respected, loved and loathed.
Not Fuck. That word has long since lost its power to shock. I use it so often it has become mere punctuation.
No, I’m talking about Feminism.
You may have seen the story in the press about the temp who arrived for her first day as a receptionist at Price Waterhouse Cooper, only to be sent home because she wasn’t wearing high heels. Or the American waitress whose photo of her bloody, shredded feet after a shift in her uniform regulation heels went viral. Surely no-one in their right mind can argue that the wearing of high heels in the workplace should ever be compulsory. Even if you are a stripper, the choice should be yours.
This is a feminist issue. It is women being told they must wear something, for no other reason than to conform to a stereotypical view of attractiveness. High heels hold many connotations. They can make women seem more vulnerable and Bambi-esque, tottering around the office like geishas. Or, they can imply a certain sexuality, with a well-turned calf and an arched foot echoing an orgasmic toe-point. Or, they are just lovely, wondrous, beautiful shoes (don’t get me wrong, I love heels). But whatever they are, it should be a woman’s choice to wear them.
Just as it should be a woman’s choice to breastfeed in public. Or not breastfeed at all. Or be whatever weight she likes. Or wear a short skirt. Or not shave her legs. Or have an abortion. Or be a slut. Or be an engineer. Or do whatever the fuck she likes, and be taken seriously and not harassed or belittled. This is the world I want my daughter to grow up in, not a world where she feels her options and opportunities are any different to those of her brother.
Before the Moo-Child was born, when she was still just our little blueberry, we painted the nursery a sunny yellow and decorated it with cartoon fish. We bought a gender neutral green buggy. No need for pink and fluffy. No ribbons and lace. When she arrived, perfect and beautiful and petrifying as all newborns are, the deluge of pink never really came. My close friends and family know I would rather dress my daughter in leopard print or skull & crossbones than frilly pastel. She had a top with a motorbike racer on, red shiny DMs and a two-tone Ska t-shirt. I sneered at the parents of little girls who wore Disney princess dresses to every party, proud of my little Moo in her ladybird outfit or monster costume.
I should have known when we got her a garage, complete with whizzy ramp for the little cars to fly down, for her first birthday. She promptly took a dump on the heli-pad the first day she had it. The offending article sat curled arrogantly on the plastic.
Now, at almost age five, all she wants is princesses and ponies and fairies. She only wears dresses, never trousers. She has a fixed idea of what are ‘boy clothes’ and ‘girl clothes’, what are ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’. Blue is for boys, pink is for girls.
Now, let me get this straight, this has NOT come from me. Her bedroom is painted blue, her bedroom furniture is blue. I always tell her that there are no such things as ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ toys or clothes, but this is either something that is hardwired in her, or she has absorbed it through her exposure to the world at large. But, on the other hand, she says when she grows up she wants to be a scientist, so I must be doing something right. Scientist or supermarket worker, I hope the daily grind of subtle sexism doesn’t wear her away, as it does many women.
We see it everywhere, experience it every day. We almost become immune to it. The way women’s art or music is dismissed by some men (and some women I might add) as inferior or desperate. How books written by women become ‘chick-lit’. I have had many conversations (with men who shall remain nameless) about music where the terms ‘blob rock’ or ‘that’s just feminism’ have come up. There is a special place in my heart for men who respect female musicians, and judge them on their music and not their vaginas.
The huge media coverage surrounding the deaths of Prince and David Bowie got me thinking about how the deaths of Kate Bush or Bjork might be handled. Easily the creative equals of Prince and Bowie, I’m predicting that they will not be lauded as ‘authentic geniuses’ in their respective obituaries. I will go so far as to predict the words ‘kooky’, ‘reclusive’, ‘strange’ and ‘eccentric’ will feature heavily. I hope it’s a long time before we find out, and I hope I’m proved wrong.
Yes, there are far bigger problems affecting women around the world than being taken seriously, but I would say to women who cry ‘I’m not a feminist!’ or men who deny that women in the developed world even have a cause to complain about sexism, try walking a mile in a pair of bloody, management mandated high heels, then see how you feel about feminism.