Thursday, 21 February 2013

Confession time: I'm a feminist

It’s not without some trepidation that I wade into the choppy waters of gender politics.  In my experience, few subjects (apart from gay marriage, women bishops, immigration, the feckless poor, Posh Dave's sincerity etc) bring out quite as much impassioned and polarised accusation and irrationality. And, regardless of what I may write here, I’m sure I’ll be digitally tarred and feathered by someone at some time for my comments.  What's brought this on?  In a few moments of relaxation recently (actually it was at the Callington Health Centre whilst waiting for my annual MOT - and that went very well, thank you for asking. My GP had to reach deep into his medical lexicon to come up with his considered verdict of "you are in pretty good nick for a 65 year old".  Don't you just hate the abstruse terms that medics use?), I completed a 'Are you a feminist?' questionnaire I came across in some magazine or other.  Here are the questions (no, I didn't surreptitiously rip the page out of the magazine - I asked the receptionist if I could before I did so):

1. Do you believe men and women are equal?
2. Do you believe women have the right to self-determination?
3. Do you believe women have the right to the same access to education as men?
4. Do you believe women should not be barred from professions just because they are women?
5. Do you believe in equal compensation for equal work?
6. Do you believe a woman should not be discriminated against because she might in the distant future want to get married and have children, particularly when a man is just as likely to want to do the same?
7. Do you believe women should be judged on their abilities rather than their looks?
8. Do you believe that women should not be held in contempt for expressing the same emotions and/or behaviours as men?
9. Do you believe that women should not have to suffer from a sexual double-standard?
10. Do you believe that women should not be chronically under-diagnosed because medicine still uses men as the default universal?
11. Do you believe that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants and not expect to get judged for it?
12. Do you believe a woman should be able to walk down a street without being expected, at the threat of verbal or physical abuse, to smile and/or flirt with any man who happens to be passing?
13. Do you believe women should not be raped?
14. Do you believe that if a women is raped, her rapist(s) should be brought to justice, without any reference to her clothes or demeanour?

Apparently as I answered 'yes' to them all, I'm a feminist. What, do I hear someone say? A male feminist? How does that work? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?  An oxymoron even?  No, of course it isn't. Think about it: feminism is both the idea and the movement that supports it.  A movement that advocates political, economic, and social equality for both men and women - the key word here being equality. A feminist is a person who believes in and supports this idea. It follows, therefore, that a male feminist is simply a man who believes in equal rights for both men and women.  There's nothing complicated or unreasonable in that and nothing that is exclusively female.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean that I  have to agree with all the methods employed by all feminists all of the time. To be honest, I find some feminists too loud, too angry, too ranty, too judgey and too, ermm, feminist. Just like some men, really. But I cannot fault the objectives of feminism - what valid arguments can there possibly be against equality? Now where did I put my bra and matches?  

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