Warning: political opinions ahead.
I want to talk today about sexism. I don’t usually get into this very much; not that I don’t think it’s important, but more because once you establish yourself as a feminist, there seems to be a bit of an expectation that you’re going to be active and vocal about it. I am perfectly happy to be active and vocal occasionally, but to be honest, constant outrage is just so exhausting. But some of the things I’ve been reading lately have really got my goat.
For example, did you know that I’m considered a “mummy blogger”? This isn’t because my blog is focused on my family, because, if you’ve read any of it, you’ll know that’s not the case. No, it’s because I’m a woman and I blog. Apparently the fact that I have children isn’t even relevant, I would still be called a mummy blogger, if you believe this article. And this bothers me, not only because I’m being stereotyped based solely on my gender, despite any other evidence that doesn’t support the hypothesis.
The thing about “mummy bloggers” is that, by their very nature, they are not taken seriously. Our society doesn’t value the domestic, attaching social value only to things outside the home. Everything that happens inside, it seems, is only useful because it facilitates the external, the professional, aspect of our lives. And the implication with “mummy bloggers” is that they only exist within the domestic sphere, and therefore anything they have to say about anything isn’t worth listening to. What would they know? They’re just mummies.
Naturally, “daddy bloggers” is a phrase that has yet to find a home, probably because men are not defined by their familial status. Listen to missing person descriptions and you’ll hear women described as mothers or grandmothers; men are listed as lawyers or landscape gardeners. But that’s not even what I’m annoyed about, despite the fact that this sexism is still rife within western culture. (I’m not even going to mention other cultures, no matter how much parts of them horrify me. That’s another fight for another day.) No, what I’m annoyed about is the fact that there seems to be this tacit acceptance of it all; that this is all there is, and as far as we’re going to get. And we should be happy with that.
Of course, here in Australia it’s not nearly as bad as the US. When did birth control get controversial again? I thought we had fought those battles forty years ago, and can’t see why they have to be fought again. Why is “feminism” suddenly a dirty word again? Right-wing media types revel in calling any woman who stands up for her rights a “feminazi“, and get applauded for it. Again, in the US, a Republican governor quietly repeals equal pay legislation with the argument that “it’s happening anyway, so why bother keeping the law on the books?” Why indeed? To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, everyone drives on the right anyway, so why bother keeping the law that requires that on the books? The whole thing is ridiculous.
Closer to home, one of my previous guest bloggers, Holly Kench, wrote a post on her own site about her internal battles about whether she should call herself a feminist. Holly recognised that not everyone saw feminism in the same light as she did, and was wary about alienating people, but it’s an important part of her identity so she kept the word. For the record, this is how she defines feminism (quoted from the post linked to above):
Seeing that there are imbalances in community, societal and cultural values, and wanting to do something about them.
Refusing the suggestion that any one person has a right to control any other person’s body, identity, or mind, or what that person chooses to do with their body, identity, or mind.
Believing that everyone’s choices and views are their own.
Accepting that everyone is different, and celebrating that fact.
That’s something to be proud of, right? At least, I would think so. But then again, the second point would probably have some people up in arms and calling her a “feminazi”, because her world view doesn’t match their own. Sigh. Feminism has even become such a reviled term in some quarters that perfectly sane, logically-minded women avoid organisations that promote women’s rights.
There are a number of high-profile people who label themselves feminists, and who actively lead the fight, who I admire deeply. Tara Moss, the former model and now best selling fiction author, is someone who never misses an opportunity to educate people and get the message out there. I admire that, I really do. But doing it all the time really wears you out.
I don’t want to be up in arms about the labelling of women’s writing, women’s fiction and what women read. I don’t want to rebel against the term “chick lit” despite how un-professional it sounds as a genre and how derided it is by other (particularly male) authors. I don’t want to be fighting for validation as an author simply because what I write is designed to appeal to 51% of the population. I also don’t want to live in a society where any labels used primarily for women seem to be derogatory and undervalued. But the fact remains, despite what I want, I think I will have to. The world simply hasn’t caught up yet.