Self-congratulatory anniversary note: Wow. I can’t believe that it was a year ago now that I decided I needed a creative outlet and sat down at my (barely functional) laptop to write a feminist analysis of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch with the optimistic hope that “even one person” would take the time to read it. Twelve months later, and I frequently hear from people at parties, or in my email, or in my Facebook messages, that my Monday night routine has become part of their Tuesday morning ritual. So, I want to send a massive thank you to everyone who checked out can be bitter over the last 52 weeks, whether you read it religiously or merely stumbled across it while searching for “porn oh porn” (although you do get a bigger thank you if you’re one of the former). Thanks especially to those who commented, and ‘liked’, and shared. And, of course, to everyone who requested a topic, and to those brave souls who wrote on one themselves! Thank yous and hugs for everyone!
can be bitter is preoccupied, by and large, with seemingly ‘minor’ stuff. In a world where female genital mutilation still destroys lives in Africa, Saudi women aren’t allowed to get a driver’s licence, and women die during childbirth an extraordinarily high 240 times out of 100,000 in developing countries (versus only 16/100,000 in developed ones), it seems petty to complain about whether Rose Tyler from Doctor Who is feminist enough. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed the disparity – it’s a pretty common argument used against Western feminists/semi-professional whingers such as myself. “Women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive and you’re getting your knickers in a twist because I called you ‘girl’?!” they ask (or usually type), incredulously (sidenote, it’s always the driving example). More than once, people employing this line of reasoning have referred to me as ‘an entitled white liberal’, which, ok, is valid.
The implications of their statement, however, are not. There’s an assumption that because I have the right to vote, work outside the home, have access to birth control and am not legally the property of my husband, I should be content. That ‘close enough’ – e.g. not being stoned for adultery – is good enough.
Well, it’s not. It’s bullshit.
Legally, Western women generally have all the rights they are likely to get in order for them to operate with the same agency as men. We have the vote, there are anti-discrimination laws which forbid employers making decisions on the basis of age, sex and pregnancy, we largely have safe and accessible birth control and abortion, and rape in marriage is now recognised as a crime. Australia even got paid maternity leave last year. Aside from same-sex marriage (which, fingers crossed, is coming soon), I genuinely can’t see what other legal protections need to be afforded us.
But it is simplistic to assume that having legal equality means women have actual equality. This much is apparent from the treatment of other minority groups (which is to say, e.g., has racism been cured? No), and is where the minor stuff comes in. I don’t constantly nitpick here because I want to annoy or intimidate men, or put down women who love being a housewife and mother, or upset anyone who really likes Boston Legal. Instead, I do it because I look at the mirror held up to us by popular culture and consistently see the work that feminism is yet to do.
I mean, there’s a lot. For example, I don’t think we’re equal because a woman’s value is still largely determined by how young, thin and attractive they are, and there is an assumption that our competency for office work is directly proportionate to the height of our heels. It bothers me that our girls now look up to omnipresent Photoshopped models and wonder why they don’t look like them. And that these models sell sex to men but insecurity to us. And that there is a still a perception that a woman’s sexuality is dangerous – from the jealous bunny boiler, to the predatory cougar, to the underage jailbait – rather than a natural part of them. And it infuriates me that pregnant women seem to be public property, as are schoolgirls who are harassed by passing cars from pre-puberty. And that we are still pressured to achieve work/life balance (read: pick up the kids from school) while men work longer hours, get paid more and head up more board tables. And that domestic violence straight up kills us. And yes, that people call me a “female” like I am a member of some Venusian alien species, rather than a person from this planet who also likes a lot of the things you like, fellow human.
So, I write can be bitter because I expect better. Because I don’t believe that this is as good as it gets. And because I hold a tiny bit of hope that maybe by pointing out the smaller, accessible, everyday stuff, other people might realise that we’re not there yet either.
You know what, I am ‘entitled’. I am entitled to be treated like a whole person, not as part of an incomprehensible subgenre whom the menfolk have generously allowed to fill out a ballot paper. And until I am, you can be damn sure I will continue to write about the ‘minor’ stuff, such as feminist word usage and representation in film and television.
One year in – and not planning to go away any time soon!
Up next: A feminist value proposition… for dudes