This morning I realised that I had totally run out of face cream AND lipstick. And I was like ‘Arghh! That’s, like soooo EVIL!’ I mean, it was a real bummer. Kind of ruined my day. Something that men get away with, without getting all stressed about….
Life is hard being a woman…
Actually – it isn’t really. Is it? I mean. As women in the UK we have just SO damned much going for us…So much to be able to do, see, buy, experience. BUT all of that ‘fluff stuff’ belies the truth of the matter for MANY women still in the UK. As a woman, the odds – still – are really stacked against you in many ways. Issues such as domestic abuse, unfair treatment at work, being taken for granted by the state as you carry out the sometimes (crushing) task of trying to be a ‘good mother’….All of these things can get you down at times. And even more reason (I would argue) to get your feminist thinking hat on and think long and hard about how far women HAVE come in this country. Indeed, yes. All of the above achievements that we have made as women here are thanks to women long-gone and the many older women still VERY much around who fought so hard for our rights. No sense of entitlement here. They had to be fought for.
Sadly though, I think that far too many of us women are caught up in silly and trivial concerns. It’s as though we are blinded by the triviality and froth of Celeb Culture. Come on – think about it. The vast majority of women in the UK – have it pretty damned good actually. I suppose I have been (fortunate?) in that I have lived and worked with women in desperately poor countries and seen just how hellish ‘being born a woman’ can be. Welcome to a life of exploitation, beatings, no education, back-breaking work, enforced sex, uncontrolled pregnancies, dangerous conditions for giving birth, disease (untreatable because of where you live or because men won’t let you leave the village in order to get treatment) and abandonment in your old age.
Just because you were born minus the male appendage.
I could provide you with a hundred websites that do incredible work to help women living in oppressive and horrendous conditions all across the world. But the horrific condition of Fistula is a personal favourite cause of mine (and yes – Lorraine Kelly is patron. I’ve always liked Ms Kelly and now all the more reason to appreciate her. www.freedomfromfistula.org.uk)
So I actually count myself as *fortunate* to have seen just how badly women can be marginalised in ph-so-many developing communities. For example – out in the coffee fields its nearly always elderly women and/or their adult daughters (with toddlers in tow) who bring in the crippilingly heavy coffee sacks. It is the men who are in charge of weighing, milling, selling and business decision processes. Often when we asked why women are kept out of the management structure and discussions – the men would tell us ‘Oh the women are not interested. And they don’t understand this kind of thing. Many of them are illiterate’.
And when the women were asked, they would say ‘No. We would love to be involved. Especially we would like to be involved in looking after the money as the men don’t do this so well…..but we don’t want to make the men angry by forcing ourselves forward’.
And I don’t want to start painting ALL societies in developing countries as being misogynistic. There are quite a few out there who could teach us a thing or two about true partnership and equality. But I do think that the trick is how you present the inequality of women to them all. I mean no-one wants some mouthy Westerner trucking up and rubbishing the way that your community or culture works. Its about having a LOT of respect and taking the gently-gently approach to providing information on how much better things can get for a group of people, if real equality is working in practice.
Right now, I am over the moon to hear that the two coffee co-operatives we are supporting, have both increased their female membership by 50%! And a lot of this is due to the approach of one of my (female) colleagues who is all too aware that arriving with a ‘Right you Blokes! Shift over and give your Board seats up for the Women!’ just does NOT work…
Hopefully there are some men out there too, who have bothered reading past the silly ‘face cream and lipstick’ opening that I began this blog post with. As it is at this point I want to address your concerns. I know that a lot of (younger) men don’t really understand what ‘all this feminism’ is about. What’s the point? Women seem to have it pretty good to you these days. Aren’t all feminists a bunch of ugly, hairy, bloke-hating militants?… So if that is the way you are thinking, maybe just pause for a bit. Ask yourself WHY the press have perhaps wanted to portray feminism as something deeply troublesome and unnattractive. Maybe it is in the vested interests of the press and media that women are pretty playthings who expose their breasts and go under the surgeons knife in order to win the hearts of men. Sexy fluff sells doesn’t it? And whilst women spend half of their lives fretting about how they look – our energies to change anything for the better in society are totally sapped…
Yes, I ackonowledge though – there are many MEN out there who have having a rough time of it themselves. And who are totally oppressed and marginalised themselves.
Certainly our society has let its younger men down. It seems that millions are being pigeon holed into having to lead a life of long-term unemployment. Many of them lack any positive male role model in their life. And they are surrounded by inane, gun-toting ‘Cool!’ images of macho men and bimboish, unnatainably beautiful women. Men cannot let their guard down still. They are still meant to be ‘the strong one. To be the breadwinner. Lots of talk about it being ‘okay to feel your feelings’ but in practice – there seems to be nothing out there that will support men as fathers, as partners as responsible members of society. Where do you go – other than to the pub or onto the street corner? Where are the positive past-times that help you to excercise both your brains and your bodies?
The work that I am involved with believes that the only way to prevent the oppression of women is to also work with men in order to stop the alienation of them as a group. And one way that we are bringing men and women to work together better, and to understand each other better is through tackling trade injustice – which always, ALWAYS exploits the poor.
Happy International Womens’ Day everyone – let’s try and stop any abuse or oppression of people – whether it be due to their gender, age, race, beliefs or nationality…I hope that you like the photos that ‘my man’ took of the young women in Ethiopia – these are the lasses who lug the coffee sacks about all day long… See the baby on the back…