Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Women marching for women

This weekend thousands of women in cities across the world marched in support of women’s rights, the day after the inauguration of a US president who has shown he really doesn’t think very much of women or their rights.

The largest march was in Washington DC, with half a million women, men and children. But in London there were estimated to be more than 100,000.
Photo by Jane Dunton

Marching again Trump

They were marching because the most powerful country in the world, that considers itself the most progressive (although no one else does) has elected a President who believes it’s OK to sexually assault women. He openly said he thought they were fair game. If you want some of the detail on what President Trump thinks about women, there’s a nice roundup Trump-on-women piece in the Independent.

While so many of us around the world are rightly devastated by Friday’s inauguration, it is heartening to see people fighting back. Too often, feminism can seem like a niche concern – something that doesn’t affect half the world’s population (men) and that many women feel might make them seem more shouty and less feminine. On Saturday, thousands of women around the world made it a bit more mainstream. And that’s not to mention many men who marched with them, because  equality affects everyone.

Let’s hope that our worst fears of Trump presidency don’t come true, and that if they do men and women in the US and the rest of the world will unite against them, as they did this weekend. 

Photo by Jane Dunton

Marching and me

I didn’t march. I’m sad that I couldn’t be there. But my main reason is one that has affected women forever, and will probably continue to do so: I had to look after my child. Because like all women, with the exception of a few, like Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins, my daughter comes first, feminism second. I hope that I manage to combine parenting and feminism in her upbringing (and no, I couldn’t have taken her with me).

I have reflected that my reason for not marching is one of the main reasons we got into this pickle in the first place – why we always come second to men. Because we have to put children first. It’s at the heart of so much of what it means to be a woman. Even if we don’t ever want to have children, society expects that we probably will end up doing this, do we are inevitably tarred with the brush of biological determinism.

I wish I'd been there...
Photo by Jane Dunton

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The grocer's daughter

You know who I'm writing about, don't you?

I half hope you don't. But there's only one woman, a towering force from politics in the past 40 years who gets that appellation. So now you know who I'm talking about. Margaret Thatcher. The Grocer's Daughter.

And now we have 'The Vicar's Daughter' - Teresa May.

I don't defend either of these women. They don't need that and I'm no fan of Tory politicians,

But I think it's sad, maybe even shameful, that we have to cut these women down to size by reducing them to the sum of their father's occupations. I can't think of a single man we do that to. We don't call Jeremy Hunt 'the Naval Commander's Son' or Philip Hammond 'the Civil Engineer's Son'. You didn't even know that was who they were, did you? But you knew that May's father was a vicar and Thatcher's a grocer. We almost always refer to men by what they are now, and what they have achieved. Not so with women.

Thatcher: By Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation via Wikimedia Commons
May: Home Office via Wikimedia Commons
I am deeply concerned about some of thing things that the Tory government, led by May is doing. I think it's bad news for our society in a lot of ways. And we should feel free to criticise her and her cronies. But let's criticise them for who they are and what they have done. Don't bring their father's jobs into it.

You could argue that it shows how far they have come: 'she was only the grocer's daughter, but...'. And yet the implication here is that being the daughter of a grocer or vicar is somehow limiting. Surely by 2017 we've figured out that we don't have to be restricted by our origins - those of us with access to free education at least.

Whether or not you like Teresa May, she is the UK's second female Prime Minister, and this is an impressive feat, both for she and us. The United States hasn't yet had a single female President. And were apparently so horrified by the thought that they elected Donald Trump. Hardly an icon of feminism.

If we're going to break down the patriarchy, we need to stop invoking it at every turn.