WOMEN by Amanda Carter

By Amanda Carter, March 2011

Here's my tuppence worth.... tad on the wordy side I'm afraid, 2011.03.10
To my sisters and bloke sisters out there on Women’s Day + 1. So here we are with one whole day to focus on the good bad and ugly for women in this the twenty first century after Christ and 100 years on from the first Women’s Day . Seems it’s barely enough time to ask ourselves why feminism has become as F-word while a rampant sexist male is the leader of a developed European country who increases his popularity with vomit-producing displays of male chauvinism. Where is the outrage and bobbit attempt on the trouble-maker in Berlusconi’s pants? Dear me no, we cannot think such aggressive thoughts, it’s not feminine… no, no, we should merely cluck our tongues, roll our eyes and giggle a little at an old duffer’s foibles. I never cease to be amazed, baffled even, by the incredible patience, forgiveness, endurance and silence of the female of our species.
But I digress because today we celebrate the heroism and sacrifice of those women of past centuries who dedicated themselves to the women’s rights movement. Thanks to them our daughters and grand daughters will not be discouraged from a career because it’s deemed ‘unsuitable’. Thanks to them we are no longer owned by our fathers until we become the property of our husbands, nor do we have to vow to ‘obey’. Thanks to them we have some of the same freedoms as men. Hey, now we can:
•    show our ankles thanks to that catalyst of emancipation, the humble bicycle (1890s)
•    vote (1928)
•    go to university (1920 Oxford, 1948 Cambridge)
•    study medicine, law and engineering
•    have a teaching career after marriage (1944)
•    control our fertility (1967)
•    divorce (1969)
•    be guardians of our children (1971)
•    go to court if we are discriminated against (1975)
•    watch comedy without mother-in-law jokes or sexist put-downs (1980s)
•    have higher expectations of the paternal role thanks to increased paid
•    paternity leave (2002)
Join with me in a dream, dear sisters, that there will come a day when men take an equal share (not just a little nibble) of the responsibility for caring for their children, and when that day comes, fathers across the land shall call aloud for more childcare provision and support and every workplace shall have a creche.
And lo, dear sisters, when that time comes, the old chipped glass ceilings will be a relic of the past: they will feature as an installation in museums for future generations to ponder over the days of yore when gender inequality was the norm. And in this museum will be stuffed with the artifacts of female oppression: the visitor would be greeted with the shameful statistics that on twenty first century planet earth, women do 66% of the world's work but earn just 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. They would enter a room of advertising images objectifying the female body with a waxworks of size one models. There would be displays of garments of suppression and a cabinet devoted entirely to the stiletto - the shoe that we wore all day at the office despite it reducing our mobility to an arse wobbling mince and distorting uterus and spine… yes, we did it all balancing on those tiny pointed sticks like stilt-walkers. The ‘beauty’ room would show footage of the popular voluntary body mutilation surgery and examples of the toxic cosmetic products that cost fortunes and was slapped on our bodies, faces and hair to enhance our looks; and for comic relief there would be extracts of the vitriolic, gonad-protecting writings and speeches of the anti-feminist movement and clips of mainstream Hollywood cinema in which women simpered, pouted, screamed in fear or cried while the guys did stuff with guns or vehicles or medical equipment… or where tough, independent women are brought under control by marriage or should they refuse that status, they would meet their death.
While we wait for the dream to materialise, let’s continue to voice our outrage for those who are still subjected to violation:
•    the 22 million girls and women who undergo unsafe abortion each year, resulting in the death of 67,000 of them;
•    the victims of rape…
•    the 40 girls and women of the Congo who are raped every day
•    the more than a million girls and women who live with the consequences of female genital mutilation
•    the one in three (at least) women around the world who have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime
•    those living under regimes whose basic rights and freedoms are withdrawn by male authority in the name of religion
•    and those many of us who are simply demeaned by the institutional misogyny of Chistianity, Islam and Judaism.
And give a thought for those of us in our green and pleasant land who continue to be discriminated against and disadvantaged, like:
•    the Roman Catholic women who believe they have a calling to the priesthood: who are in every way fit for purpose excepting for their ownership of a vagina and lack of a penis, and who have upset some priests so much, they have hoisted up their skirts and fled the church in anger and disgust
•    the girls in many co-ed state schools who, despite their learning being disrupted daily by attention-seeking boy behaviour, still manage to achieve
•    the largely unpaid and invisible carers of the elderly and sick.  With the current cuts in public services, many more of us will be compelled to be unpaid carers out of duty and necessity.
And while we acknowledge that we are the ones fortunate enough to have forged such lives for ourselves that would make our grandmothers proud, let’s turn our thoughts to the women of the developing world who do not yet have the same freedoms we enjoy.
It is awe-inspiring to watch the women of South America going about their daily lives: cooking food on the street and in the home; buying, weaving, washing, folding, mending, sometimes ironing clothes; combing, plaiting, decorating and styling their children’s and their hair; the women and young girls carrying babies and toddlers swaddled on their backs; the old women bent double carrying massive bundles of firewood, grasses for animal feed or goods to try to sell on the street corner day after day.
I see them in the markets working from dawn to dusk: cooking and serving; keeping one eye on their youngsters playing with empty boxes and used straws; stopping for a moment to breastfeed a little one; giving comfort to a crying child or settling one down for a nap in a box beneath her feet. They service we gringos in our hostels, cooking breakfasts, making beds, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms and floors.
I see them labouring in the fields beside their men: digging, sowing, harvesting, The grandmother or great grandmother beating the backside of the last in line of the cows lumbering back to the paddock; sitting patiently all day under the beating sun watching the sheep, while spinning wool or knitting a garment. The hands of the indigena women are rarely still, even while walking they spin wool from a small spindle. There are the daughters whose families have made sacrifices so they can have education and opportunity, their oiled black hair slicked back in a bun or roll, not one wisp out of place. They teeter on the spikey heels of their black pointy shoes, with tight black skirts to the knee and seductively display cleavages, promising fertility and delight, nesting in ruffles, lace or gaping buttons. Seems this is evidence that here too, education, intelligence and capability alone would not be sufficient for these young women to secure good paying jobs. Even the women soldiers, traffic cops and policewomen wear their uniforms skin tight, their hair highly coiffured and faces covered with a thick spread of makeup.
I’ll jump down from this soap box now before I’m pushed, but one last thing… let’s join in a shout for a planet where all our daughters can walk safely wherever they wish, even after dark. A world where they can dress however they want without judgment; where they enjoy their natural born beauty and feel no need to alter their body shape or change their face in order to please men; where their intelligence and abilities are valued; where they are respected for their experience and wisdom when they become mothers and grandmothers and not rendered invisible; and above all where they are not violated, exploited or discriminated against.
So here’s a toast to us and how far we’ve come and to our resolve to keep the changes coming. Yes, you know we can, chicas.
Here endeth the lesson … and thanks for listening
Love, light and peace,

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